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How Do We Coach Selflessness?

We need to treat everyone like they were our customers.

The old saying “the customer is always right” is a lie. When I was leading sales teams, I would often hear about unhappy customers that our salespeople had to manage. At times, I would have to go meet with the customer and hear about their issues myself. I was yelled at, demeaned, and accused of some pretty hateful things. I knew through it all that the customer was NOT right. As I walked out of those meetings, leaving a chunk of my backside behind, the sales representative would often ask, “why didn’t you set him straight Dave! He was wrong!” My response was usually, “The customer may not always be right. But the customer is still the customer.”

It was really hard to be nice in those moments. It was really hard not to defend myself or the company when I knew we were being wronged. But when I look back at those situations, I realize I sometimes worked harder at being kind to those customers than I did at being kind to my colleagues at work and my family at home.

If we are in business or even in the public sector, we have customers. In business, the customer is the person who pays for our goods or services. In the public sector, the customer is the people we serve in our communities. If we are successful, then there is no doubt we have gotten really good at serving our customers. We try hard, give up our time, and swallow our pride for the good of the customer. If we have customers, we have to be selfless in order to succeed.

Our desire to succeed with our customers should be a guide to how we can succeed with the people we lead and the people we love – the people we work with and the people we live with. If exercising Selflessness helps us succeed with our customers, it makes sense it would work well with these two groups both at work and at home. How do we coach someone to exercise Selflessness? Ask them how a customer should be treated:

● If a customer had a suggestion, would you listen to them or shut them down?

● If a customer was upset, would you spend time with them or avoid them?

● If a customer wanted something extra that was in your power to give, would you give it to them, or tell them they don’t know what they are talking about?

Selflessness is a habit. Each time we choose to exercise Selflessness, it makes it easier to make that same choice again. That is how habits are formed – one choice at a time. The good news is many of us have already developed the habit of Selflessness with our customers. Understanding how to exercise Selflessness in other parts of our lives only requires us to change our thought process. We need to treat everyone like they were our customers.

We define Selflessness as “putting the needs of others before our own needs, desires, or convenience.” That is what we seem to do well with our customers – even when they are wrong or hurt our pride. We can do the same thing with people at work and at home as well. Even if they are wrong or they hurt our pride, exercising Selflessness is the best way to maintain those relationships, build trust, and grow our influence.

Dig Deep Questions:

● When should you have treated a colleague like a customer?

● What’s one way you need to be more customer focused at home ?


It is important to us for you to have an opportunity to exercise Selflessness, not only individually, but together as a team. This is why we have created practice cards with scenarios. We invite you to discuss as a team what it means to exercise Selflessness via our Coaching Cards.

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